Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded the alarm Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 cases in New York is accelerating greater than projected and may still be two to three weeks away from reaching its peak.
On Tuesday, there were 25,665 cases of the coronavirus in the state, more than 10 times greater than California, Washington State or New Jersey. Cases in New York have been doubling about every three days, an unsustainable rate that would overwhelm the state’s 53,000 hospital beds, 3,000 of which are in the ICU, and the overall healthcare system, Cuomo said.
“The inescapable conclusion is that the rate of infection is going up, it is spiking, the apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought,” he said. “That is a bad combination of facts.”
With cases rapidly growing, the governor said the state will need about 140,000 beds, up from earlier estimates of 110,000, and as many as 40,000 beds in the ICU. The governor had already ordered all hospitals to increase bed capacity by 50 percent and is asking to double their bed counts, if possible.
The Westchester County Center will be the site of one of four makeshift hospitals that will be set up, along with the Javits Center in Manhattan and SUNY Westbury and SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island.
“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need,” Cuomo said. “But we need the staff for these beds.”
Calls have gone out for retired doctors and nurses. As of Monday, about 30,000 retired healthcare workers have signed up to be on call.
But hospitals throughout the state also need ventilators, which are in short supply, Cuomo said. Previously, New York had ventilators for each of the ICU beds. The state has been able to procure about 7,000 ventilators and received 400 more from the federal government, leaving them far short of what will be needed, he said.
Cuomo blasted the federal government Tuesday for sitting on a stockpile of about 20,000 ventilators, urging them to distribute them to areas in critical need. Once the peak passes, Cuomo said he would make sure that New York ship the ventilators to the next hotspots around the country. He said it would take about two weeks to get the ventilators shipped to hospitals and ready for patient use.
“You are looking at a problem that is of a totally different magnitude and dimension,” he said. “The problem is the ventilators.”
He once again called on President Donald Trump to activate the Defense Production Act to order private industry to make critically needed supplies.
Cuomo also floated the possibility that the younger and the less vulnerable and those who have tested negative or have recovered from COVID-19 could go back to work at some point to start reopening the economy on a limited basis. However, he slammed the notion, by President Trump, that the economic shutdown could be worse than the virus.
“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest,” Cuomo said. “No American is going to say accelerate the economy and the cost of a human life because no American is going to say how much a life is worth. Job one has to be to save lives. That has to be the priority.”
County Executive George Latimer said Tuesday that he wanted to restart the economy as soon as possible but that the health crisis must be dealt with first.
He said as of Tuesday morning, there were 3,891 cases COVID-19 cases in the county, with New Rochelle, the site of the state’s first outbreak, leading with 225. That is followed by Yonkers with 191, Greenburgh including its villages, with 115, Mount Vernon with 81 and White Plains with 65.
Other municipalities are Port Chester (45), Scarsdale (38), Eastchester and the Village of Ossining (35 each) and Mount Pleasant and Yorktown (30 each).
The only Westchester municipality without a case is the Village of Buchanan.
County residents who have questions related to the coronavirus are asked to e-mail COVID19FAQ@westchestergov.com or to call the United Way helpline at 211.